The Head
This page was last updated on 11 February 2002

Installing Formica over most head surfaces  |  Reinstalling wood trim  |  Installing overhead liner

Completing vanity  |  Painting  |  Choosing and Installing the Marine Toilet

Holding Tank and Associated Plumbing

Before moving on to the major part of the new head installation, I wanted to take care of a few other details.  The first thing to do was paint out the inside of all the lockers in the head, before these areas became obscured or more difficult to reach.  As with everything else on board, I painted these areas with two to three coats of Interlux Bilgekote, which is a light gray color.  There's nothing nastier than an old, dirty, rusty, moldy locker, so the fresh paint really helped.  Having these spaces painted will make them much easier to keep clean and appropriate for storage.  I painted the three lockers immediately behind the head location to port, as well as the lockers opposite in the old hanging locker.  I also painted out the area of the hanging locker that will become enclosed by the new vanity; the other areas of the head will be covered with Formica or other liners later in the process.

(The areas not painted in the photograph will later be painted or otherwise covered with our material of choice--mostly white Formica.)


The new head seacocks were also installed (see Seacocks for detailed installation information). The area around the seacocks will soon be painted.

 With this done, the basis for installation of the final coverings and systems installation is complete.




The use of Formica on interior surfaces is a good choice for boats, especially in the head, where constant moisture could make paint a maintenance nightmare.  We decided to use satin white Formica on all possible surfaces in the head, which include the fore and aft bulkheads, the cabinets outboard of the head and vanity, and the vanity itself.

Installing the Formica was fairly straightforward, but time consuming and fussy.  Personally, I would rather work with wood any day, but the white surfaces do brighten up the space considerably and there should be basically no maintenance in the future, other than regular cleaning, which will also be facilitated by the smooth, slippery Formica.

A few tools make the installation neater, quicker, and I would say are almost required for any large scale formication.  These are:  

  1. J Roller

  2. Laminate Shears

  3. Laminate Trimmer or small router

The basic process I followed was this:  first, I made newspaper patterns of the areas to be covered, using time-honored pattern making techniques.  Then, transferring the patterns to my shop, I cut out all the pieces using the laminate trimmer and a straightedge where possible, the laminate shears for the curves and other, smaller pieces.  This process, for most of the head area, took several hours and was kind of a pain, as the pieces, once cut, had to be dry fitted and trimmed again as necessary (in some cases).  I then spread contact cement on the back of the laminate pieces and on the surfaces to be covered, let dry an appropriate length of time, and applied the pieces.  I rolled them out with the J roller to firmly bond the adhesive.

This installation was a dramatic transformation to the head, although there are a number of trim pieces needed to cover the gaps between various pieces.  With the odd angles, out-of-squareness and un-plumbness of the bulkheads and cabinets, it was nearly impossible to get perfect fits, and I did not even try, as I knew trim would be necessary anyway.  I plan on using some of the old teak trim from inside the boat, cut to the proper profile and refinished as necessary.  The solid oak bulkhead/mast step supports, seen in the photo as still light blue, will be primed and painted white; the overhead will be covered in fabric.

I installed a foam-backed headliner, the same as used in the forward cabin, on the overhead and cabin trunk sides.  I used 3M trim adhesive, a spray contact cement, to hold the liner in place; a previous attempt using ordinary spray adhesive failed miserably.  The headliner looks nice and has the added benefit of being slightly cushioned, for those inevitable knocks on the head in the middle of the night.  There is still some wood trim needed to cover the edges.




I milled some 1/4" x 3/4" mahogany trim pieces for the head, with some pieces rounded on both sides (for use on the seams in the headliner) and others rounded on only one side (for use where one edge is against a flat surface).  I prefinished the pieces with tung oil.  I installed these pieces over all the edges in the head, on the overhead, cabin trunk and elsewhere as needed.  I installed the pieces with #4 x 1/2" screws and some hot melt glue where necessary.  

I also milled larger, solid mahogany trim pieces to cover some of the other portions of the head, including trimming out the vanity and covering the outside corners of the bulkheads where necessary.

The original teak cabinet doors and frame from above the toilet platform were in good shape, although the varnish required renewing.  I sanded off the old finish and applied three coats of Epifanes rubbed effect interior varnish.

I made three mahogany doors to cover the new opening beneath the vanity, the opening immediately behind the toilet, and the opening above the sink.  The doors are 3/4" mahogany, joined at the corners with half lap joinery, and milled for a 3/8" overlay.  I glued the pieces together with waterproof glue, and varnished them to match the rest of the woodwork.  Then, I installed caning as described here.

I installed the doors with 3/8" overlay brass cabinet hinges, and they are held in the closed position with brass cabinet catches that are screwed to the doors and the inside of the cabinets.   The doors look great in place--the varnished mahogany against the white background is a classic, elegant look.

head1-31201.jpg (38592 bytes)    vanitybottom-31201.jpg (36240 bytes)    vanitytop-31201.jpg (40204 bytes)


The support posts for the mast beam were still the original sky-blue-awful paint, with many bare areas left from sanding.  With an improvement in the weather and warmer temperatures, the time finally came to paint these areas, bringing the head compartment ever nearer to completion.

I began by masking off the surrounding areas, including the Formica-covered bulkheads around each post and the head support platform.  I will likely be covering this platform with a teak and holly cabin sole, but figured I might as well paint it for now--if only to hide the ugly and old.  Next, I applied a coat of Brightside primer to all surfaces and, after allowing the primer to dry overnight, applied two coats of white Brightside to all surfaces.  What a difference!

Work remaining:  Installing the marine toilet and sanitation system, plumbing the sink, cabin sole, miscellaneous trim details, and probably lots of other things I haven't thought of yet.


Glissando, Pearson  Triton #381

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